Mumbai: PMLA court rejects Deepak Kochhar’s bail plea

A special court, constituted under the Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act, 2002, on Thursday refused to grant bail to Deepak Kochhar, the husband of former ICICI Bank managing director (MD) Chanda Kochhar, in connection with a money laundering case.

Earlier this week, Deepak Kochhar had moved a bail plea on two grounds.

The first ground was failure of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to submit a charge sheet within the stipulated time frame of 90 days.

The second ground was on the merits of the case and claiming his innocence.

The court on Thursday heard arguments from Deepak Kochhar’s lawyers — Vijay Aggrawal, Rahul Aggrawal and Ashul Aggrawal — and the ED counsel, Hiten Venegaokar and Sunil Gonsalves.

Also Read: Chanda Kochhar, 2 others named in ED’s money laundering chargesheet

Deepak Kochhar’s lawyers pointed out that the charge sheet was yet to be filed even though the stipulated 90-day time frame had expired.

The prosecution contended that the agency submitted a charge sheet before the registrar of the court two days before the stipulated 90-day deadline expired.

The charge sheet contains voluminous documents that are kept in five trunks, pending scrutiny.

The special court heard the arguments and rejected Deepak Kochhar’s bail plea on the ED’s failure to file the charge sheet within the stipulated 90-day deadline.

The court will hear the plea on the merits of the case on November 23 after the Diwali vacation gets over.

The ED took up the money laundering probe after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered a case of corruption against the Kochhars over three years ago.

The CBI had initiated the inquiry in 2017 against the couple after a whistleblower had alleged that ICICI Bank sanctioned credit facility of about Rs 3,250 crore to various corporate entities, which were in contravention to banking rules and policies.

The CBI had filed a first information report (FIR) in January, 2019, where it alleged that six high-value loans worth Rs 1,875 crore were disbursed by ICICI Bank to Videocon Industries Limited (VIL) between 2009 and 2011.

It was alleged that in 2009 the credit facility to VIL was extended in contravention of rules and policies by the sanction committee, which included Chanda as one of its members.

A loan of Rs 300 crore was disbursed to M/s Videocon International Electronics Limited, a part of Videocon group of companies, on September 7, 2009.

An amount of Rs 64 crore — out of the loan of Rs 300 crore — was allegedly transferred to M/s NuPower Renewables Pvt Ltd (NRPL) by VIL on September 8, 2009.

The ED, which investigated the allegations, claimed that VIL transferred the money to NRPL via Supreme Energy Private Limited (SEPL), which was later acquired by Pinnacle Energy, a trust owned by the Kochhar family.

The agency claimed that NRPL was owned, controlled and managed by Deepak Kochhar.

“The loan funds travelled from VIL to NRPL through SEPL, but two intermediary companies were brought in for the purpose of layering. The proceeds of the crime (Rs 64 crore) were utilised by NRPL to purchase properties,” the ED had claimed in its remand application while seeking Deepak Kochhar’s custody.

“A residential property — an apartment at CCI Chambers in Mumbai — was purchased for Rs 5.25 crore on February 19, 1996 by Credential Finance Limited (CFL). CFL was a company, where VIL had substantial interest along with the Kochhars and the latter’s family members. CFL defaulted in repayment of a loan of Rs 4.7 crore availed from the State Bank of India (SBI) and for which the apartment was placed as collateral. VIL paid off the dues in 2009. Later, the ownership of the apartment was transferred to M/s Quality Appliances Pvt Ltd (QAPL), now known as M/s Quality Techno Advisors Pvt Ltd (QTAPL), a Videocon group company from CFL. On November 26, 2016, total shareholding of QTAPL was acquired by Quality advisors — a family trust of Deepak Kochhar set up by Chanda’s mother — for a nominal sum of Rs 11 lakh,” the agency further claimed.

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